October 1, 2010
After a worker at a Portland, OR salon reported nosebleeds, eye irritation and respiratory problems after applying the hair-straightening product Brazilian Blowout on customers over the course of a month, testing found the products contained high levels of formaldehyde, even on bottles labeled “Formaldehyde Free.”
Oregon Health & Science University’s Center for Research on Occupational and Environmental Toxicology (CROET) issued an alert yesterday regarding potential negative health impacts of the Brazilian Blowout product. The agency recommends that salons stop using this product immediately.
“The test results coupled with health symptoms reported to us from stylists using the specified hair product raised concerns at CROET because of the potential long-term and short-term impacts of formaldehyde exposure,” Dede Montgomery, an occupational safety and health specialist and certified industrial hygienist at CROET who is leading the studies, explained in a release.
Formaldehyde is a colorless, flammable, strong-smelling chemical used in building materials, household products, glues and adhesives, permanent-press fabrics, paper product coatings, insulation materials, fungicide, germicide and as a preservative in mortuaries and medical laboratories. According to the National Cancer Institute, studies of workers exposed to formaldehyde have suggested an association between formaldehyde exposure and several cancers, including nasopharyngeal cancer and leukemia
The salon gave a bottle of Brazilian Blowout to CROET, along with shipping documentation that the salon received the product on 8/27/09 from the manufacturer. CROET sent the product to the Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) for testing which found that the product contained 4.85% formaldehyde.
CROET obtained another sample of Brazilian Blowout from a different salon, this labeled “Acai Professional Smoothing Solution” and “Formaldehyde Free.” Documentation showed the manufacturer shipped the product to the salon on 8/12/10. Again, CROET sent the sample to Oregon OSHA for testing. Four separate testing methods reveal the sample contained 10.6%, 6.3%, 10.6% and 10.4% formaldehyde respectively.
Additional laboratory analysis also detected four additional chemicals in each sample, including methanol and ethanol.
OSHA requires that manufactures of products containing more that 0.1% formaldehyde list the chemical and address safe work practices on the material safety data sheet (MSDS) accompanying the product. OSHA’s Hazard Communication Standard requires employers to share this information with their potentially exposed employees through training. OSHA also requires employers to assure that no employee is exposed to an airborne concentration for formaldehyde which exceeds 0.75 parts formaldehyde per million in an eight-hour period or short–term exposure of no more than two parts per million (2 ppm) in a 15-minute period.
“According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), formaldehyde can produce a variety of effects including immediate irritation of eyes, skin, nose and upper respiratory tract, cough, chest pain, shortness of breath and wheezing. The major concerns of repeated formaldehyde exposure are sensitization, which is similar to an allergic condition, and asthma in those who have been previously sensitized to formaldehyde. Additionally, the Department of Health and Human Services has determined that formaldehyde may reasonably be anticipated to be a carcinogen,” Montgomery said.
Stylist Molly Scrutton, who first reported the adverse health effects to the CROET, decided she could no longer work in a salon where Brazilian Blowout was in use, reports OregonLive.com. The owner of the salon, Pauline Steiner also experienced respiratory effects from the product. They and their colleagues decided to discontinue using the product and no longer offer hair straightening with any product at the salon.
Brazilian Blowout posted an official statement in response to the OSHA findings on the company’s website saying the company is conducting an investigation of the allegations.
The company argued that the samples OSHA tested were not submitted by the company itself, “Because OSHA did not request a sample from the company directly, there is no reason to believe that the formulation tested and found positive for traces of formaldehyde was indeed Brazilian Blowout product. This represents a clear violation of proper testing protocol, and this gross negligence on the part of OSHA invalidates all findings that have been released as a result of OSHA’s testing.”
Oregon OSHA is conducting additional testing and is working with California OSHA, Federal OSHA, the Oregon Department of Justice and Oregon Public Health. Employers and workers with questions or concerns can call Oregon OSHA’s technical section at 503-378-3272 for more information. Employers can also request a confidential, on-site consultation by Oregon OSHA to assist in determining employee exposure.
“CROET will continue its research and collaboration with state and federal agencies. Based on the information we have received to date, we felt that additional public notification is required,” said R. Stephen Lloyd, Ph.D., interim director of CROET and a senior scientist within the center.
For additional information about CROET’s research on the ingredients of Brazilian Blowout, visit http://www.ohsu.edu/xd/research/centers-institutes/croet/emerging-issues-and-alerts.cfm